The Elmwood Giants are looking to stand tall once again.
After winning the school’s first Winnipeg High School Football League championship in the Andy Currie ‘A’ Division last fall, the Giants are looking to balance the swagger of victory with the humility of facing down a tough gauntlet of opponents once again. Elmwood opens its season at home to the Dryden Eagles at 5 p.m. on Sept. 5.
Head coach Nathan Falk explained the team is looking to fill certain slots as several players graduated after the 14-7 win over the West Kildonan Wolverines to win the division title. The Giants are primarily looking to fill spots along the offensive and defensive lines, though they boast a roster with incumbent quarterback Braydin Chicoine and championship MVP running back/linebacker Shaun Neil.
"We know that we’ve got targets on our back now and people expect us to be good," Falk said. "The key is that we’re not complacent. We’ve got to work hard to get back to where we were.
"There is a positive attitude. There is a buzz around the program now. It’s the first time they’ve ever won a championship. The goal is to channel that into something constructive."
Neil acknowledged opponents will be gunning for Elmwood, but he’s confident in what he and his teammates can do.
"It’s going to be harder this year, but I think we’re definitely up for the challenge," Neil said. "If we come together as a unit, I can see we’d have no problems going back to back."
Falk said that in contrast to the Giants’ nickname that size will be an issue facing the team this year, especially along the lines.
"It’s something we’re going to have to work with all season long and make adjustments as we go to hide that we are small," he said.
On the other side of the coin, Falk feels Elmwood’s biggest asset will be its speed.
Chicoine noted the team can take some inspiration from last season, as the Giants lost to the Wolverines in their regular-season meeting before recovering to take the championship rematch.
"We just looked at that game as fuel to the fire to come out in the championship game," he said.
Free safety Emilio Swampy, a Grade 12 student and team captain, will admittedly be one of the hungrier players on a team hoping to repeat. Swampy missed the championship game with an injury, and after recovering to play this season, will hope to be in uniform for a repeat this fall.
"I want to lead my DBs (defensive backs) to that again and get that feeling," Swampy said. "It makes you want to go even harder."